What might be called my first “psychic break” from the Christianity I’d been immersed in for several years came when I was 20. I’d returned home from almost a year on the road with a gospel choir because my dad had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. No, the trigger for this change was not the fact of his illness. Yes, I did go through an emotional “if only” syndrome: feeling that if only I’d been a better daughter it might not have happened – yet at the same time I recognized that as an irrational but common emotional reaction. I also flirted with the idea of trying to bribe God by making outlandish promises if only he’d perform a miracle – but knew that was also an irrational but common emotional response.
I didn’t believe that either God or the devil had anything to do with it – or karma or luck or anything mystic or magical. Bad things happen to good people. I believed that what mattered was how we reacted to things and that God was there to comfort, support, and provide guidance – not to wave a magic wand and make it go away. I believed that prayer was most beneficial to the one who prayed – it wasn’t an incantation or spell that would change the external world or alter God’s mind, but would instead change the person praying. Praying wasn’t about getting things – it was about seeking wisdom. It wasn’t about “God change them” but “God change me”.
I knew my outlook was different than most of my Christian acquaintances, and radical to the crowd my family and I fellowshipped with. We belonged to a mega-church that was on the cutting edge of the apostolic, headship / submission, and prosperity fads that were becoming all the rage. I’d had well meaning church members try to fit me into their one-size-fits-all box many times. But as annoying, frustrating, and depressing as that could be, as mind-bending, manipulative, and confidence-destroying as it was, I hadn’t considered leaving. But when Dad got sick, I saw and felt the response of these “good” people for what it was – cold, hard, rigid dogma utterly lacking in compassion, empathy, or any type of wisdom or truth.
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